Space Saving Gardening Techniques

It has been a long time coming this year but Spring is finally here! If you haven't already planned out your garden plot for the year, here are few good space saving tips for small plot and intensive gardens from Purdue University Cooperative Extension (view the complete document).

Interplanting. Alternate rows with a fast and slow growing crop. When the fast crop is removed, the row spacing widens to allow ample space for the slower crop. For example, plant radishes, green onions, spinach, or lettuce between rows of cabbage, corn, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. [Barb's Notes: Louis Savier via Eliot Coleman suggests leek/carrot, mache/onion, and radish/romaine interplanting pairs to take advantage of complementary maturity times and growth characteristics. Onions/carrot/lettuce is another popular combo that complementarily mixes leaf forms, light requirements, and rooting depth. I like to plant Buckwheat with my tomatoes (squash and cucumbers too) and then slash down the Buckwheat as a green manure once the tomatoes are big. Lots of room for experimentation!]

Intercropping. Sow a fast and a slow growing type of seed together. For example, sow radishes and carrots together. When the radishes are harvested, then the carrots will be automatically thinned. [Barb's Notes: A classic French intensive intercropping method starts early in the spring (often with help of a manure hot bed or cold frame) by sowing radish and carrot and lettuce transplants, once the radish and lettuce are harvested, replace with cauliflower transplants. Another method by Ianto Evans starts cabbage indoors two weeks before the last frost; then one week before the last frost he direct sows seeds of radish, dill, parsnip, calendula, and lettuce; at week four he harvests radish and plants cabbage in their place about 18-inches apart; at week 6 he harvests the young lettuce; in late spring/early summer after the soil has warmed to 60 degrees or more he plants bush beans in the lettuce holes, then in the fall he plants garlic. Give it a try!]

Succession planting. As soon as one crop is finished, plant another. For example, when cool-season crops such as lettuce, spinach, radish, and peas are harvested, replant with beans, beets, or turnips.

Band planting. Plant crops in bands of double or triple rows instead of single rows where practical. Where mechanical equipment is not being used, wide paths between rows waste valuable space. Smaller crops such as lettuce, spinach, beets, and radishes are especially suited to band planting (see Table 2 for approximate spacings).

Short row planting. Don’t plant more than you will be able to use at one time, e.g. planting a long row of lettuce or two dozen cabbage plants which you can’t possibly use at once. In small plot gardening, it is advisable to plant only the amount needed.

Vertical training. Many vegetables, including peas, pole beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, and tomatoes, will naturally climb a support or can be trained to grow upwards, leaving more ground space for other crops. Support structures include cages, stakes, trellises, strings, teepees, chicken wire, or existing fences let your imagination take over!

Mini Gardening. Vegetable breeders have been emphasizing smaller plants for container and small plot gardening. Although some of the dwarf or mini plants produce smaller fruits, often a greater number of fruits are produced, yielding a good total harvest. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and peas are just a few examples from the mini ranks. Some new cultivars of vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers have compact, trailing growth habits ideal for growing in hanging baskets.